Health

NIH creates 6-university network to tackle mystery diseases

File: Flu vaccination needles are seen at a free flu shot clinic at New York-Presyterian Hospital's Allen Pavilion Oct. 10, 2005 in New York City.
File: Flu vaccination needles are seen at a free flu shot clinic at New York-Presyterian Hospital's Allen Pavilion Oct. 10, 2005 in New York City.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

The government is expanding its "mystery disease" program, funding a network at six universities to help diagnose patients' super-rare diseases.

The National Institutes of Health has evaluated hundreds of these cold-case patients in its campus research hospital as part of a pilot program since 2008. Demand is so great, there's a waiting list.

So on Tuesday, the agency announced the NIH Undiagnosed Diseases Network, a four-year, $43 million initiative to bring more doctor-detectives on board. The goal is to at least put a name to more patients' puzzling symptoms, and then eventually find treatments.

The centers include: Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Duke University, Stanford University, University of California, Los Angeles, Vanderbilt University and the Harvard University teaching hospitals Brigham and Women's, Massachusetts General and Boston Children's.